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The Broken Earth #1

The Fifth Season

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Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Fantasy (2015)
This is the way the world ends. Again.

Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze -- the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization's bedrock for a thousand years -- collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman's vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.

Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She'll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.

original cover of ISBN 0316229296/9780316229296

468 pages, Paperback

First published August 4, 2015

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About the author

N.K. Jemisin

112 books54.7k followers
N. K. Jemisin lives and works in New York City.

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5 stars
127,085 (51%)
4 stars
84,018 (33%)
3 stars
27,325 (11%)
2 stars
6,815 (2%)
1 star
2,925 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 25,384 reviews
Profile Image for Melanie.
1,174 reviews98.8k followers
September 22, 2017
This book is beautiful, this book is smart, this book is oh so heartbreaking, and this book is a masterpiece. This is one of those books that make you feel absolutely guilty for giving out five stars to other books. This book is unlike anything I've ever read, but it felt so seamlessly woven. This book mirrors the society we live in today and makes you think about all those uncomfortable topics you'd rather ignore and pretend do not exist. This book has the best representation I've ever read in a SFF novel. This book is deserving of all the hype, all the praise, and every ounce of love it's received. This book easily is now one of my favorite books of all time.

“Let's start with the end of the world, why don’t we?”

This story is set in a world called the Stillness, where earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and other terrible things impacting the earth are constantly happening, but there are people who are able to manipulate the earth to ease them. These people are called orogenes and even though they are continually saving the world they are constantly oppressed slaves. This world has convinced everyone that orogenes are dangerous and need to be controlled at all costs. It is illegal to harbor orogenes and you must turn them in, even if they are your family. The price of hiding a orogene is great and most people are not willing to pay it. If a orogene isn't killed by their community before they are turned in, they are taken to a training school called the Fulcrum where they are deemed worthy enough to train

Everyone in the Stillness is trying to survive the world's unforgiving environment. This planet is beyond unstable, because of Fifth Seasons that happens sporadically, but almost wipe out the planet each and every time. The people in this world are scared that a new Fifth Season is about to begin. And just so you understand the severe of the living conditions during a Fifth Season, here are some examples:

Choking Season - with volcanic eruptions which caused ash that, if it didn't kill you from breathing it in, the lack of sunlight for five years would try to.
Acid Season - with plus-ten-level earthquakes, which caused many volcanoes that caused the water to become acidic.
Boiling Season - with hot spot eruptions that began underneath a great lake and made millions of gallons of steam which triggered acidic ran.
Fungus Season - with volcanic eruptions during monsoon season which made for perfect fungal spreading that wiped out major food supplies.

These are just a few of the season, and without orogenes this world wouldn't be able to keep a new Fifth Season at bay. This book follows three different girls who are each struggling to survive this horrible world and struggling with their own individual journeys:

Essun - An older woman whose husband has killed their young son, because he showed that he was a orogene. He inherited his powers from Essun, but they were keeping it hidden from their community. Essun is now off to find her husband who fled after the murder and took their daughter with him.

Damaya - A small girl who realized she was a orogene after an accidental attack. Her family is isn't willing to pay the price of harboring her, especially since her community now knows what she is. Her parents call the authorities and she is going to be taken to the Fulcrum, where they can train and use orogenes if they are trainable and submissive.

Syenite - A young woman who has lived the majority of her life at the Fulcrum being trained. At the Fulcrum, as you increase your learning and abilities you will earn rings that signify your power and allows you more privileges. Syenite has four rings, which is impressive in its own way, but she is now assigned to breed with the only ten ring around, so she can give the Fulcrum her child in hopes that it will be very powerful and very trainable.

“Orogeny is damned useful, Syenite is beginning to understand, for far, far more than just quelling shakes.”

Yet the side characters are amazing, too. Hoa, Alabaster, Tonkee, Innon, all of them, along side these three women, worked their way into my heart. This whole dystopian world that only wants to kill itself worked its way into my heart. This story is and these characters are truly one of a kind.

This book perpetuates so many healthy ideas absolutely seamlessly:
➽This book is unapologetically black and it's something of beauty.
➽This book is about systematic oppression, set in an expertly crafted SFF novel.
➽This book has one of the best polyamorous relationships I've ever read.
➽This book has bisexual and gay representation that was perfection.
➽This book has a wonderful transgender side character who everyone accepts without question.
➽This book even celebrates found families and the importance of finding your own people that will love and accept you unconditionally.

“Home is what you take with you, not what you leave behind.”

This book creates so many parallels to the world we live in today. This book, hopefully, will make you think about your internalized racism and the prejudices that you hold without even realizing it. The reason so many of us think the way we do today, in 2017, is because our world has told us to think this way without even being given a chance to think differently. This book even has a fictionalized slur for orogenes that made my stomach turn every time I read it. This book is raw and painful at times, so very painful, but it's such an important story. And I'm still unsure if I've ever read anything as sad as the node maintainers in all of my life. The Fifth Season isn't just an amazing SFF novel, it's a parallel to our world today, and I recommend everyone not only read this novel, but to open their eyes while reading this novel.

N.K. Jemisin did all this and wrote one of the best SFF stories I've ever read in my life. She deserves every award she won for this masterpiece, if not more. This book is deserving of all the hype, all the praise, and every ounce of love it's received. This book easily is now one of my favorite books of all time and I can't wait to read The Obelisk Gate.

“This is what you must remember: the ending of one story is just the beginning of another.”

Also, please go watch the best review of The Fifth Season ever created, by my all time favorite Booktuber, Adriana, from perpetualpages! Their review brings me to tears every time I watch it, and I hope my review plus theirs will make you pick up this powerful and important book with one of the best stories ever written.

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Profile Image for Cezara-Maria.
31 reviews288 followers
August 6, 2015
Yes, 5 full stars for this one because it's everything I want in a fantasy book. I will explain.

I don't read fantasy and sci-fi because I like magic or space ships or laser swords or what have you. I read fantasy and sci-fi because I want to see something new, and there's no other genre that allows this much freedom of imagination, this much flexibility and bending of reality and this much room for "what ifs". The genres are ripe with tropes and cliches even so, and I'm at that point where it pains me to have to read again through a story about the noble hearted what's-his-face who saves the land of medieval-Europe-plus-elves-and-dragons with the help of the wise mentor and the pretty princess. Show me something else, something truly weird, I say! And N. K. Jemisin delivered.

Let there be a world wracked by earthquakes and volcano eruptions, she says, restless and hostile. Let there be apocalypse-level events every hundred years or so. Let this world be inhabited by people who believe the Earth hates them, who value survival above all else, and have organized their society around making sure some of them will make it through the years of darkness, and famine, and poisonous air and water that follow such geologic disasters. Let there be among them those who have the power to control the earthquakes, to start and stop them at will, and let that society hate them, while doing their best to exploit them at the same time. Let there be another sentient species, strange creatures of stone whose motivations are unknown, who share this world with humans.

Then come the the details. The mysterious ruins of the many civilizations that came before this one, some considerably more advanced. Their artifacts endure to this day, their purpose unknown and maybe unknowable now that their makers have been dead for thousands of years. The harshness and ruthlessness of a society living on the brink of extinction, where value is based on usefulness and where, come Seasonal Law, those deemed useless are left to die in the wastelands. The purely utilitarian approach to building in a world where a balcony is unquestionable proof of foolishness or privilege, where decorations are a waste of time and resources since they'll be wiped out in a few years without fail. The surprisingly advanced science, focused - unsurprisingly - on geology, chemistry and physics. The hatred and exploitation of the orogenes, those who have power over the earth itself, by a society that both fears them and desperately needs them if it is to survive. The secrets and the lies and the rewriting of history and the suppression of lore by those who want to keep the orogenes willing slaves. The horrifying abuse, and the inescapable brainwashing, but the training and education too. A system meant to make them more powerful and more powerless at the same time so that it may better make use of them.

And then Jemisin pushes further. She goes so far out of the medieval Europe setting that she ends up on the Equator. She makes the other sentient race truly alien, as a different sentience should be, lest you end up with just stranger looking humans. She makes the humans different races, and *gasp* doesn't put the paler one in charge. Just as the characters span the gradients and combinations of human races, they span human sexuality too, from straight to gay with blurry boundaries all over the place. There's love and family and sex, but they're not the kind of relationships you're used to. Why should they be? This is not our world with some magic, mythical creatures, and sword fighting mixed in. This is something else. Something new.

And yet, as you read, you get the feeling that this could be our world with some magic and some mythical creatures mixed in. You get the feeling that it was this sort of world at some point, and then something maybe went wrong, and everything had to change, to adapt, and this is the inevitable result. The world is strange, but it's not strangeness for strangeness's sake. It all makes sense, everything fits together, and while you can see that some things could be different, you understand perfectly well why they're not. It's like a gnarled and twisted tree growing on a rocky windswept mountain top. It's not like other trees, but not because someone decided to take an ax to it and make it as different looking as possible. No, once the seed was planted, there simply was no other way it could grow.

I can't say more, especially about the characters and the story line, without spoilers, even though I feel I could rant about this book for days on end. Go read it. I can't begin to imagine the level of skill required to create a world so different, and then make it feel so real. N.K. Jemisin deserves your attention.
Profile Image for Rick Riordan.
Author 259 books409k followers
December 18, 2019
I picked this one up because I greatly enjoyed Jemisin's Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, but this novel was even better. Jemisin blew me away with her world-building and beautiful writing. It's the tale of an alternate earth called the Stillness, which is plagued by constant seismic activity. This leads to frequent near-extinction events called "Fifth Seasons" that keep humans on their toes. The evidence of past civilizations litters the planet -- ruined cities, incomplete 'stonelore' handed down from earlier generations, and strange obelisks that float through the atmosphere like low-altitude satellites and serve no apparent purpose. The civilization that we meet in this book, the Sanze Empire, has survived for centuries by harnessing the power of orogenes -- people born with an innate ability to control their environment. The orogenes can stop earthquakes or start them. They can save cities, or draw power from living creatures and "ice" them. Their powers are terrifying yet essential, so the empire develops a caste of Guardians who have the power to neutralize the orogenes when necessary. The orogenes are held in contempt and called "roggas" by ordinary humans. Despite all their power, they cannot control their own lives. They are either hunted down and destroyed or sent to the Fulcrum to be trained and used by the empire. Imagine Hogwarts, if Hogwarts treated its students like chattel. The world Jemisin creates is as horrific as it is brilliant.

My advice is to give the book at least fifty pages before passing judgment, because it takes a while to understand what is going on. There is a lot of terminology to get used to, and the book is told in three intertwining narratives that at first don't seem to match up, but once you get into the world and into the story, it is a fantastically rewarding read. I can't say much about the plot without giving away some of the wonderful surprises, but if you want to read about a truly dystopian world that holds a mirror to the darkest of human motivations, this novel will haunt you long after you finish it.
Profile Image for Emily (Books with Emily Fox).
554 reviews60.5k followers
October 5, 2018

Post-apocalyptic mixed with Fantasy? My two favorite genre? Hell yes! This was such a good read!

The writing does take some time to get used to (one section the narration is told at the second person for example!) but I didn't find it slow and found myself immersed into it very quickly but more time was clearly put into it than the average Fantasy so it might be why it can take a bit more time to get used to it!

Totally recommend it and I'm planning on reading the whole trilogy pretty much back to back!
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,096 reviews17.7k followers
February 2, 2023
I think we should return to talking about how this is one of the single most compelling books ever written

—for all those who have to fight for the respect others are given without question.

I'm re-reviewing this because I accidentally used up a full page of my last essay ranting about it and now I really desperately want to reread. (It's September 8th, why are all of my books still in California.)

The fact that this series won the Hugo award three years running should very quickly establish its degree of quality but I'm going to quickly point out the things that Wowed Me anyway. The writing of this book is glorious — there’s a sardonic and a crisp tone to it, without any wasted words. The worldbuilding is wonderful and involved. (However, I admit that I tend to be really intimidated by worldbuilding-heavy books, so can I just say — this should not intimidate. Despite the level of detail and complexity, the broad plot is not too convoluted.)

This book contains several plot twists that remain some of the wildest and most incredible in literature, including one that literally caused me to scream out loud. (This is partially because the last 150 pages of this book gave me so much anxiety that I think my brain short-circuited.) While there’s not necessarily always something going on, there’s always lingering tension; this world is dangerous, and we feel that, in every beat of the book.

Oh, and the characters are just the best. There are three POVs within this book:
➽Essun — an older Orogene whose husband has killed their young son after he showed signs of power. Her story is told in second-person narration. She falls in with two mysterious people, Hoa and Tonkee, while looking for her daughter Nassun.
➽Demaya — a child Orogene taken from her parents to the Fulcrum, a training ground for Orogenes. Her plotline is horrifying. (That hand scene absolutely haunts me, as in it's been a year since I first read this and I still vividly remember it.)
➽Syenite — a young Orogene who has grown up at the Fulcrum. Syenite's storyline is my favorite. Also, her dynamic with Alabaster honest to god kills me.

I was just thinking this recently after reading This Savage Song, but it bears repeating: a book using enemies-to-best-friends as its key dynamic is everything I have ever wanted and I am blessed. Alabaster and Syenite, y’all. Holy fuck. I want to read 300000000 pages of them being deep-level best friends with a romantically-overtoned but still deeply platonic bond. I would die for them. (As I've now finished this series, I'm going to say it: I really wish they interacted more in the following books.)

Putting aside the fact that this book consumed my waking hours and the fact that Syenite could kill me and I would thank her. The thing that resonates with me about this book and this series in general is that its central question is this: in a world that barely thinks of you as human, in a world where you have to fight for the respect others receive without prompting, in a world where you are told from the beginning of your inherent inferiority, how can you find a sense of being? The answer, if there is one, is through love. The Fifth Season is a book of brutal acts of oppression, but love — between lead character Syenite and her friend (it’s complicated) Alabaster, or between Syenite and her daughter Nassun — is the driving force of the book, the thing that characters risk their lives for.

As a story about how human beings can be taught to believe in themselves only as cogs in a great wheel, it is utterly gut-wrenching.

And in a book driven by an all-black cast, and several queer leads — the most prominent three side characters are a gay man, a bi man, and a sapphic trans woman — this feels especially significant. The fantasy setting trope of a minority culture heavily coded as being some other race is nothing new; what is new, however, is the fact that Orogenes are, in most cases, the point-of-view characters, and the lens through which we see this new world.

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Profile Image for Petrik.
688 reviews46.1k followers
August 12, 2017
4.5/5 Stars

I will not start my review for this book with some praises. Don’t get me wrong, this is an amazing book (oh shit I just did), but I’d like to start this review instead by saying patience is virtue is apt here.

“For all those that have to fight for the respect that everyone else is given without question.”

This book and my review will be dedicated to all of you.

The Fifth Season, the first book in the Broken Earth trilogy is, in my opinion, a book that will truly require some patience for you to read. It took me around 80 pages to get used to everything in the book and truly start getting invested in it. That’s quite a lot of pages needed, sure there’s a great reason for this but in my opinion sacrificing the first 20%, even if the culmination of it was great. I’m not surprised if a lot of people DNF this book just from the 20%, I almost DNF it myself, it’s also the only reason why this book didn’t receive a full 5 stars rating from me. But trust me; you won’t regret reading this through to the end.

Think of a jigsaw puzzle. You start with the big picture, the box or cover of the puzzle. In the case of this book, you started with the passage “This is the way the world ends for the last time”, but you have no idea how it happens and what’s going on, what’s the catalyst? To process this, it’s really easy, read the book. You’ll probably think at this point “you don’t say?” but once you started, you’ll probably think of DNFing quickly. Like assembling a jigsaw puzzle, it’s easy to do it, you just need the patience to fit all the pieces. Brandon Sanderson praised Jemisin highly in her writing and storytelling and you know what? He’s right. Jemisin stated that The Broken Earth trilogy is the most challenging books she ever wrote, just from the first book I can already see why. I can’t imagine how much research and planning were done for the creation of this book. I think of the plot of this book as an intricate story that gets better and easier to read the more you progressed, just like how assembling jigsaw puzzle started overwhelming but gets easier and more addictive the more you progressed.

Jemisin has also done a stellar job in her characterization. Essun, Damaya, and Syenite have become one of the best written female characters I’ve ever read. Their journey, struggle, background, personality, determination are all written in a way that will make you truly care about them.

Picture: Essun by Miranda Meeks (The cover of Fifth Season limited edition by Subterranean Press)

Not only that, the side characters here are also unique and equally engaging. For those of you who are begging for diversity in their read, rest assured that you’ll find them here. You want LGBT? Oh, you’ll get it, a lot, with a passage like a “cock rubbing on oily cock”, I don’t think you can ask for more in that aspect. People of color? Brown, black, white, it’s there and they’re all well written.

Taking place in a world called The Stillness; Jemisin’s world-building is wonderful, vivid, and atmospheric. Accompanied with a rich history and an intricate magic system called Orogene, which deals with the manipulation of thermal, kinetic energy to address seismic events, almost everything about this book is Earth shatteringly good. One thing to note though, most of the terminologies here isn’t explicitly explained. You have to understand what the names are through the context provided by the narration. If you’re impatient in trying to understand the terminologies, you can just go straight to the back of the book to read the detailed explanation, there’s a whole detailed section there.

Before I close my review, I must tell you about the prose here. The way this book is written is a complete culture shock to me, especially Essun’s POV. It’s the first time I read a combination of 2nd POV narrative, done in present tense, and combined with an omniscient element so it took me a while to get into it. Damaya and Syenite’s POV are easier to read as they were done in 3rd person and present tense. It felt odd at first, but after the first 20%, it became so addictive to read. Jemisin’s prose is beautiful and enchanting, and definitely suitable for the story she’s telling here.

By the end of this book, I arrived at the conclusion that The Fifth Season is one heck of a start to a trilogy. It’s superb, highly original, and also a fantastic mix of high fantasy and sci-fi that can only be achieved by top-tiered authors. This book has won tons of awards, look them up if you want, there are too many to list here. However, let me tell you that those awards are truly well deserved.

You can find this and the rest of my Adult Epic/High Fantasy & Sci-Fi reviews at BookNest
Profile Image for Tharindu Dissanayake.
288 reviews560 followers
February 4, 2022
"Earthfires and rustbuckets."
"I sleep like an earthshake"

I haven't read a ton of award-winning books, but out of the handful I've read, one rarely lives up to the expectations. Maybe it's because of the hype, or the above average expectations, but the result is almost always the same. So, imagine my surprise when The Fifth Season made it beyond my wildest expectations: a books worthy of all the hype, second person present tense narrative notwithstanding.

"Winder, Spring, Summer, Fall; Death is fifth, and master of all."
"The earth is good at healing itself."

Jemisin is amazing. She creates Stillness, a fascinating new world that is dark, intriguing, immersive and mysterious, with a seemingly effortless manner. Everything about the world building feels very original, and that alone is deserving of all the stars I could give. There's just something about her writing that makes it easily relatable. This is going to be my benchmark for measuring world-building in future books, until I come across something better.

"But human beings, too, are ephemeral things in the planetary scale. The number of things that they do not notice are literally astronomical."

Given that this is the first installment of a trilogy, priority has been given to world-building to establish a strong foundation for the rest of the series. Usually, one would expect, such a book to be a rather slow-paced one, however this is anything but that. Jemisin proves her originality is not limited world-building but also capable of managing plotlines. She uses three immersive storylines, and expertly converges them to a single thread by the end of this first book. I loved all three protagonists, but Essun is my clear favorite. There's also a whole lot of supporting characters, who are equally unique and interesting. But the most striking thing about the narrative is, in my opinion, the second person present tense point of view used for Essun. Usually, present tense narratives drive me crazy, but for once, it has worked out well. I kept wondering if it was really necessary, but once you made it to the end, it becomes clear that any other way would've destroyed the harmonious convergence of the plotlines.

"Much of history is unwritten. Remember this."
"But pain is what shapes us, after all."

The Fifth Season doesn't really need a lot of pointers for those who haven't read the book yet, other than giving the highest recommendation possible for an adult fantasy book. However, for those select few who thrive on action along, it would be better to remember that this is a prologue to what is a most fascinating journey. So, take your time to place a solid foundation before moving to the real story from second book.

"History is always relevant."
"Accuracy is sacrificed in the name of better poetry."

It's been a while since I've stopped blaming myself for not picking up a book, given the size of my ever-expanding TBR. But books like these make it really difficult to do so: I think majority of the readers are going to be disappointed for not reading this sooner. Again, highly recommended to adult fantasy fans.

"Neither myths nor mysteries can hold a candle to the most infinitesimal spark of hope."

"But this is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. For the last time."
Profile Image for s.penkevich.
967 reviews6,853 followers
February 23, 2023
Read this entire series.
If you haven't, go buy a copy right now.
Buy seven extras and gift them to a parent or sibling to have them pass the copies out and form a bookclub.
If they already have a bookclub, join the bookclub.
Seduce everyone with baked goods and jokes. Then take over the book club. Call yourself the Book Baron or Supreme Reader if this is your thing.
Pick this book as the next choice.
They will love it, they will thank you, and they will likely shower you in gifts of baked goods.
Help them overthrow you because being a tyrant is bad, shame on you.
Feel better by reading the next two books and basking in their brilliance.
You are welcome.

Jokes aside (I am now your book club leader), this is an absolutely astonishing book and series. Its big, complex and doesn't pull any punches. Set in a world where periodic apocalyptic events are just part of the usual history, this story follows along as another end-times is ushering in. In a world with living conditions this harsh, society is harsher to match with an opressive caste system and an uneasy and often violent relationship with magic users and other races that inhabit the planet. Jemisin examines grief, responsibilites that go with power (and the horrors when it is abused), oppression and more in a tightly wound plot that hums with tension and dread as we watch the world implode along with the character's emotional states.

It's a book thats best read with as little information going into it as possible, which is also part of Jemisin's world building style. The world building is vast, robust and wonderfully imaginative, but she does not draw you in easily and instead drops you into a hostile world trusting that you can figure it out on your own. I tend to prefer this strategy.

Seriously, read this book. It's just beautiful and engrossing in ways few other books I've read have been. You'll fly through the entire series once you get going (be advised the first 100pgs can be a bit cumbersome to navigate but it REALLY opens up after that). Also there is some great LGBTQ+ representation and strong female leads. And every book in the series won a Hugo. You might as well read it now too because she is writing the script for the upcoming film trilogy. Stop reading this review and just read the book.
Profile Image for Twerking To Beethoven.
391 reviews66 followers
September 10, 2018
New updated review.

I'm told N.K. Jemisin won YET another ((probably) deserved) Hugo Award this year. Her third in a row.

As some of yaz are probably well aware of, I'm not fond of her writing style nor of her bullshit books. What can I do? I just don't like her stuff. Anyways, where was I? Oh yes, when I tried to read the first installment of "The Broken Earth", I just failed to finish it and ended up throwing the bastard on the barbie along with some shrimps and prawns... ruining both the shrimps and the prawns, just so you know.

Also, a few days ago, I was amiably discussing the novel in question with some peeps in a... let's call it "forum" on the Interwebz... but, as soon as I pointed out what my personal feelings were when it comes to this series of books and the author, well, let's say that my views weren't met with enthusiasm by the admin and I got an instaban. I swear I didn't call anyone funny names and shit. I was like wtf, why?

Anyway, I'm digressing. I know I should be talking about "The Fifth Season" but, I'll tell you what? I think I've learned my lesson so I'm going to be writing about my day instead, aye?

The weather has been glorious lately so I thought I'd take my camera for a walk in order to show you where I live.

All right, this is the church, you can see the white cross where our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified for all our sins. Present, past and future ones.

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Also, the premises of 7 Network SC.

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And then... oh shit... no... no... no....

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Old review

8:36pm, Sunday, August 21st, 2016. Noosa Heads

"The Fifth Season" won the Hugo for best novel.

And I'm like...

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Aye, anyway... I guess if I say it's an utter load of wank, nobody will notice.

I honestly tried, without prejudice, and - go figure - failed. DNF.

Not only is this book written in present tense - which bugs the ever loving fuck out of me -, it's also written in second person which is *possibly* even worse, it just kicks my feeble, tiny, weak brain in.

I gave it a go a few months ago because of the hype and the praise, and 50 pages in or so, I was this close to tossing the bastard on the barbie and calling it all the known names on earth. I eventually didn't burn the steaming pile, and gave it to a friend of mine who - ha! - equally loathed it.

I reckon it's probably my issue. I mean, there are way too many enthusiastic reviews on GR, y'know. What can I say? I still think "The Fifth Season" is a waste or trees.
Profile Image for Nnedi.
Author 154 books15.4k followers
April 5, 2016
A beautiful haunting tale told in the way that I love, with little regard for the linear illusion of time. And the voices, oh the three voices.
November 19, 2020

💀 DNF at 38%. Please someone give me a medal.

The gif is strong is this one. Consider your little barnacled selves warned.

This was such a delightful read.

Just kidding. Bloody stinking fish, this was painful as shrimp.

99,99999% of you People of Despicable Book Taste (PoDBT™) thought this was deliriously mind-blowing and scrumptiously original and fantabuliciously well written and all that crap, which can mean only one thing: you I read the book terribly wrong. Strange. That has rarely ever happened in the past. I mean, I you always display super human powers of good judgement, enlightenment, discernment and acumen, I wonder what the shrimp might have gone wrong here. I unfortunately do not have time to research this most disturbing matter right now (things to do, kingdoms to overthrow, puny humans to enslave and all that), so I guess I'll just have to hand the investigation over to my decapodic friends over at the Murderous Malacostraca Institute of Treacherous Technology (MMITT™). Moving on and stuff.

Soooo. This lovely book right here. Where to start? The possibilities are quite endless. What is NOT to love about this overhyped, headache inducing endeavor most wondrous piece of fantasy literature, really? There are just so many things! Like, I don't know, the bloody shrimping writing. That's definitely something NOT to bloody shrimping love about this book. I mean, it is written in Deadly Present Tense of Spontaneous Self Combustion (DPToSSC™), which tends to make me feel kinda sorta like this:

The only exception to this vicious allergic reaction is my boyfriend Sandman Slim. Because he's, you know, my Super Hot Slightly Amoral and a Teensy Little Bit Screwed Up Homicidal Boyfriend (SHSAaaTLBSUHB™) and stuff. But I ever so slightly digress. So. Somewhat abhorrent present tense narration? Check. This was bad enough and got my exoskeleton go all blotchy and swollen and itchy and ew ew ew, but it seems the author decided this wasn't an excruciatingly painful enough experience for me. So she threw in a healthy dose of Bloody Shrimping Second Person Narrative from Hell (BSSPNfH™), too. Bless her little soul. What a heavenly enticing idea that was.

Ah, yes, good old BSSPNfH™! Such an enchanting writing device. Gives you the impression the author is trying to tell you how to feel and what to think and stuff. It really is quite wonderfulthis might or might not be a slightly sarcastic comment. Just thought I'd point that out. Thank fish the story isn't told in second person for its entire entirety, otherwise I might have DNFed it at page 4 ← this thought never entered my mind, by the way. Not even for a second. Nope nope nope, absolutely not. So everybody and their shrimp seem to think Jemisin's writing is beautiful and masterful and innovative and unique and original and please somebody kill me now because stuff like this:
These people killed Uche. Their hate, their fear, their unprovoked violence. They.
Killed your son.
(Jija killed your son.)

Beautiful and masterful and innovative and unique and original, huh? Not to be contrary or anything , but I happen to think Jemisin's writing is gimmicky as fish and disembodied and stilted and flat and unemotional and forced and impersonal and disconnected and tries so hard to be edgy and cool and clever and hip that it ends up making you me feel like you're I'm reading a bloody Creative Writing 101 essay and damn this has to be the most exasperating, tedious, lackluster, fabricated, irritating, dull thing I have read in a bloody shrimping long time and it reminds me of Red Rising which very logically makes me want to shudder to death and this sentence seems to be over now so you might resume breathing and stuff. You are quite welcome.

I might have tried to survive this taxing ordeal, had the plot been engaging enough. But it wasn't, so I didn't. Okay, the premise was pretty intriguing, to be disgustingly honest. The story itself, however, while not as coma-inducing as The Killing Moon, was still prime Cure for Insomnia Material (CfIM™).

But hey, it's not ALL bad. The characters are as flat as my favorite herd of ironing boards, too! And emotional as a truckload of bricks! And deliciously unlikable! And beautifully unpleasant! And the scrumptiously I Don't Give a Bloody Shrimping Damn Whether They Live or Die Dead Type (IDGaBSDWTLoDDT™)! Yay and stuff!

The End. And Stuff.

➽ And the moral of this Much Underrated The Practice Known as DNFing is for Much Alleviation and Joy and Comfort and Bliss It Brings Crappy Non Review (MUTPKaDNFifMAaBaCaJIBCNR™) is: most of my Clueless Little Barnacles fangirl/fanboy/fanwhatever about this book like rabid thirteen year olds on crack. If this were a free country, they would obviously be entitled to their wrong opinion. Unfortunately for them, this is my Subaquatic Empire of Doom and Destruction (SEoDaD™), so they aren't. Ha. Oh, and by the way: QED and stuff.

A very private message to my Friendly Neighborhood Trolls (FNT™):

[Pre-review nonsense]

It's been a while since I last felt so bloody shrimping relieved to put a book away. Oh wait, that's not entirely true. I kinda sorta felt the same bloody shrimping way when I DNFed the fish out of The Killing Moon. It's funny, the author of the book is called Jemisin, too. Strange that. I wonder if that's a coincidence. Yeah, it probably is.

Don't worry, N.K. Jemisin, it's obviously not me you, it's you me. Then again maybe not.

➽ Full This Overhyped Piece of Fish is One of the Most Overhyped Pieces of Fish I Have Read in a Loooong Time So Let's Get Trollin' Trolls I'm Ready for You Crappy Non Review (TOPoFiOotMOPoFIHRiaLTSLGTTIRfYCNR™) to come.
Profile Image for jessica.
2,555 reviews35.6k followers
September 15, 2019
this book started off a bit rocky and slow, but i am so relieved that it eventually grew on me. i didnt love it as much as i wanted to (mainly because i misread the synopsis, so this was completely different than i thought it would be) but there is still much that i enjoyed about it.

- this story blends both sci-fi AND fantasy. i know many books are lumped into the SFF genre, but this is the first story where both elements are present and coexist seamlessly.

- the representation in this is endless. there is so much visibility for many different people.

- i like how there is a focus on the importance of family, especially the kind of family you adopt and not born into.

i had some issues with the writing style throughout and i really wish there was more about essuns husband and daughter but, overall, this ended up proving to be a worthwhile read. i am very much looking forward to continuing the series!

3.5 stars
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,104 followers
February 10, 2017
Edit, 10:52 pm, tonight. :) N.K. Jemisin is the WINNER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :) :) :) :) Was there any doubt?

Old Review (from a few hours ago):

Re-Read 8/20/16, the day the Hugo Awards Ceremony is to take place for the novel I voted for. :) Coincidentally, I'll be reading the sequel tomorrow. :)

So was it as good as I remember? Actually, better. But that's mostly because I'm in on the trick and the secret of the MC is is laid bare and the whole novel then becomes a character exploration for me as well as a jaw-dropping mountain-load of quakeworthy World Building and awesome implications.

Since I first read this, I read her trilogy and loved it, but what can I say? I still loved this one even more. It speaks to me right down to the absolutely horrible revelations, the personal impacts, the hopes, the fears, the successes... oh, especially the successes... and of course, the question of WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON. :)

To say this book is full of questions is to say that a Jane Austen book is full of lace. It's kind of obvious. The question is: What the hell is the lace up to?

Jemisin is fantastic for mythology and mythology building, but what is best about this book is the sense of long history and cycles and the deep feeling like it is all headed somewhere huge. And it is. Just let me ask you... What DID happen to the moon? ;)

If you haven't read this yet, then you're a fool. :) It's deeply textured in all ways, and its not just the fact that the gods are chained or that we killed Father Earth's only child. It's pretty obvious that this is a deep time future Earth, too, and everything seems to seriously point toward a mind-blowing explanation beyond recurring extinction events. :) Which happen anyway, so yeah, let's get down to the real reasons, shall we?

WHY. :) Oh so yummy. :)

Looking forward to the awards ceremony tonight. Let's see if my top choice made it! :)

Original Review:

This is my first N. K. Jemisin, and I'm truly ashamed that I hadn't gotten around to her writing before now. I'm just putting that out right away, because this shame is all my own, and it is deep.

Secondly, this feels like an intensely personal novel, to me, and for me, although maybe nobody will ever know why, except me. The way she treats the volcanoes and the earthquakes make me seethe with jealousy and rage, because it is just so damn good.

And thirdly, I'm stuck straddling the line between how much I enjoyed the POV developments and how they eventually revealed something truly great by the end and how much I wish I had known the secret from the very start. It wouldn't have taken much. Just another line following each heading. There would have been no confusion, no mystery. But no, it is as it is, and I'm very likely going to have to reread the novel to pick up any possible failings of my inconsiderate attention span before I dive into the second novel that follows this.

So what am I trying to say, here? That I'm a miserable failure who is taking this novel way too seriously and admits that he may have missed too much on the first read because the novel was too dense for his little brain? Possibly.

But what I'm really saying is that this novel has skyrocketed to one of the topmost favorite novels that I've ever read, that I'm squeeing about it, and that I think I've just found my newest favorite author of all time.

I like to think that I'm fairly well read. I like to think I have a fairly discriminate palate that shows in my reviews, even if they don't always show in something as simple as a star on a bar. I like to think that I can pick out works of deeply fine quality and works that have obviously been borne quite bloodily from an author's head, like Athena, only with much more gore. This is one of those damn fine novels that just REEKS of imagination, forethought, CRAFT, and one hell of a fine setup, a fine conclusion, and finally, a fantastic and sharp new setup.

I remember the moon. I thought of it throughout this novel. Its having been missing throughout all these damn cataclysms caused me as much grief as the idea that the Fifth Seasons are actually huge diebacks on the Earth, recurring endlessly ever since we killed the moon in some mysterious and immense SF past. We have people with amazing powers, almost godlike in scope, having undergone so much social and historical upheavals, themselves, that no one even knows their history any longer, or why they chose to chain themselves.

We have our main character and her shadow, developing to a final convergence that is a truly wonderful reveal, while leaving us with even greater questions and a truly immense possible conflict. As if supervolcanoes and earthquakes and their control or release weren't enough conflict, right? We've the makings of one of the biggest revenge stories I've ever had the pleasure to read.

It's almost as if I'm reading a quality SF novel that has been allowed the freedom to go Super Sayan on me.

And so my jaw drops.

Am I utterly amazed after reading this? Yes. Hell yes.
Do I have any reservations with the author's writing, timing, storytelling, subject, characters, or reveals? No. Hell no.

I do want so say one thing after reading the afterward, though. Thank you, Ms. Jemisin for not giving up on this amazing novel. All of your blood, sweat, and tears have brought forth something truly great. I am indebted to you, personally, for changing my life and my expectations about what can actually be pulled forth from a great novel. You did something Big. Thank you!

Update 4/27/16

And so now we learn that this novel has been nominated for both the 2016 Hugo and the Nebula!
By my review above, I'm pretty certain I've expressed how much I love this book, and that has not changed one bit. If I was in a position to scream from my soapbox to say to the Nebulas that this is the clear winner, I would. As it *is*, I CAN scream from my soapbox to the Hugos and say it. :)

I mentioned in my review for The Aeronaut's Windlass, another book that also got the Hugo nomination for this year, that there really should be two separate categories for Standalone Novels and another for Novels in a Series, because most series novels have the luxury of taking things extremely slow and build character, setting, and plot in such long sweeping epics that when we look back on them, they fairly overwhelm us if they've done their job right.

Standalone novels can do the same thing, of course, but they have to do so economically and usually with a great deal of panache and brilliance and editing that probably makes it an entirely different kind of beast from the series novels. At this point in the SF/F genres, we have amazing examples of both and we're getting crowded in one single category that more often than not has to artificially balance series novels 3 out of 5 in 2016, crowding out a plethora of brilliant standalone novels.

I'm fairly naturally prejudiced to separate these two forms in my head, because I'm totally invested in the characters and settings in the series, while I'm learning everything new for the first time in the standalone.

When I think of the Hugos, I generally think of standalone novels, but I *know* it isn't true. I've recently finished reading all the Hugo winners and a very significant portion of the nominations all the way back to the start of the award. Still, I feel a bit prejudiced. I want excellent standalone novels to be recognized as such, uncontaminated by preconceptions.

BUT. I also have to make a decision based on just how F***ing Awesome a book is, too, and The Fifth Season, even if it is the first in a new series, is F***ing Awesome.

I'm sure a lot of people felt the same way about Ancillary Justice when it came out, and I can't say that was the wrong choice for that year, either. :) Good is Good is Good is Good.

So regardless of whether the category should be split up or not, out of all the choices we're presented, I think The Fifth Season should shake the whole ceremony up. :)
Profile Image for Mark Lawrence.
Author 72 books51.7k followers
December 27, 2022

I don't really know what to make of this one.

Don't get me wrong, it was really well written, full of clever ideas and novelty. It just...

Well, let's go back to the writing and the ideas. I thought the writing was great, prose-wise. Not quite as good as some of my favourites, Laini Taylor, Josiah Bancroft, Alix E. Harrow, and Robert V.S. Redick, but much better than average. And the 'magic system' based on large-scale manipulation of the bedrock, was novel, exciting, and interesting - meshing neatly with the world's issues.

The characters were interesting if largely (to me) unsympathetic despite their suffering - I guess I just didn't find them ... like-able? I did enjoy following their story though.

I think it's the story I had most issue with, and again it's not a huge issue - I enjoyed reading the book and consumed it more swiftly than I do most novels. But the story did feel rather disconnected with some erratic pacing. I found the pirate section with the 3-way relationship, and the under-ground comm section both to drag a little.

The plot assembles itself in a novel manner and things picked up for me as it did so. The story still didn't really hang together in a particularly satisfying manner for me, and the ending ... well, it's very definitely a book 1, and it doesn't really come to much of a crescendo at the end. It did leave me wanting to read on though and see how the puzzle unfolds.

So, yes. I can see why lots of people are excited about it, and I enjoyed the book. Jemisin's a very good writer. The structure had its pros and cons but was a refreshing change. I just wish I'd been more emotionally involved in the story, more excited, rather than just intrigued. Intrigued is good though.

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Profile Image for Lyn.
1,883 reviews16.6k followers
May 6, 2019
Really good.

N. K. Jemison’s 2016 Hugo Award winner’s world building is as good as Frank Herbert or Ursula LeGuin and with magic rules as well thought out as Brandon Sanderson and with an intimate talent for complex characterization as good as Octavia Butler.

All comparisons aside, Jemisin’s work is wildly original and she has created a far future fantasy that provokes thought and entertains. Evoking Jack Vance’s The Dying Earth, this is far, far in the future (if it is even Earth) where some people, Orogenes, have wild earth moving kinetic powers.

And there are aliens.

In metaphor, Jemisin describes the Orogenes as both imaginatively powerful but also hated and used as slaves. In this way Jemisin uses her impressively intricate narrative to also explore themes of individuality and the One versus the Many. This allegory is especially noteworthy in our post 9/11 world where powerful individuals can affect change as much or more than a sovereign nation.

Also interesting was her use of the second person narrative structure in alternating sequences. Really don’t see that much.

Jemisin’s intricate use of tectonically powerful super humans, shunned by the rest of mankind, is also a fitting and resonant metaphor for our own responsibilities to our faltering world. The author uses the Orogenes complicated plight to reveal failings in our responsibility to our Mother Earth (interestingly changed to Father Earth in her story).


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Profile Image for Markus.
476 reviews1,562 followers
April 23, 2019
"Every time the earth moves, you will hear its call."

The Fifth Season is another interesting experiment by N. K. Jemisin. And while I would argue that it has been tremendously overrated, it is still overall a pretty good book with a lot of qualities. It reads more like an unpolished, interesting debut novel than an award-winning piece by an experienced author, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Let’s start with the criticism, why don’t we? (That is my attempt at paraphrasing the book’s opening sentence.) The writing style, alas, is unforgivably poor early on. The unfortunate combination of second person and present tense does absolutely not work without an explanation, and the fact that that explanation does come later on only means that the quality of the book increases as one approaches it. Until then, the book was most evocative of a BuzzFeed article in story format written by an edgy teenager who desperately wants to be a cool writer.

Some wonderful examples include:

”Pyramids are the most stable architectural form, and this one is pyramids times five because why not?”

”Back to the personal. Need to keep things grounded, ha ha.”

While that is the vibe I often get from Jemisin on a lot of points, she usually delivers anyway, and this book was no exception. I had a ton of issues with the book beyond just the initial one mentioned above (characterisation is another thing Jemisin appears to be struggling with), but the writing style stopped bothering me as I went along, and there were also plenty of things that I greatly enjoyed.

The setting is one such. I would like to know a lot more about Fifth Seasons, obelisks, orogenes and whatnot. The prologue provides an unnecessary infodump where the reader is flooded with information that the author then claims is irrelevant anyway (so why make me read that, Jemisin?), but beyond the first set of chapters, the book found a better pace, and the world became increasingly intriguing.

Similarly, I like the exploration of a great many social themes, including oppression, independence and difference. The dedication of the book makes a clear point of what it sets out to do, and, almost ironically, I found it to be one of the most eloquently written sentences in the whole book: “For all those who have to fight for the respect that everyone else is given without question.” And indeed, the diversity of the cast and the setting add another layer of vividness to the reading experience.

Overall, the first Broken Earth book was a disappointment, but only because of the expectations imposed by the hype and the accolades. Had my expectations been a little lower, they might have been met, by a daring and innovative novel as this book very much deserves to be called. As it stands, it is still an intriguing introduction to a promising series, especially now that I know what to expect. (and I have quite different things to say about books two and three, which I will get to in their respective reviews).

Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall; Death is the fifth, and master of all.
Profile Image for Matt's Fantasy Book Reviews.
264 reviews3,968 followers
June 8, 2022
Check out my YouTube channel where I show my instant reactions to reading fantasy books as soon as I finish the book.

Equal parts slow, boring, unrelatable - with a writing style that feels extremely awkward.

I've heard so many good things about this book that I was extremely eager to begin my journey here. Virtually everyone I know that has read this book has given it at least a 4/5 stars rating. But unfortunately I disliked virtually everything about this book, and couldn't even bear to finish it which is extremely rare for me (got to about 80%).

First, I need to say that I listened to the audiobook of this - and the narrator was actually extremely good. It's one of the main reasons that I got to as far as I did, and they did a great job at doing multiple different voices in a distinctly well done way.

But the writing style here felt very off for me. While I'm sure it is eventually revealed to the reader why this is happening, the inexplicable writing in the 2nd person for much of this book was off-putting to say the least. It felt like the author was trying to be clever, but ultimately just took me out of the story.

While I haven't finished the book, it's extremely clear to me that sometime at the end of the book there is a major twist. But the twist was evident to me by about 1/4 through the book, and I actually had to go back and check that it wasn't revealed to me earlier in the book because it felt so obvious. Normally I am literally the last person to catch on to a twist before it is revealed, but it really sucked a lot of life out of the story to have something so built up, but simultaneous so obvious. I think the book would have benefited by just embracing the twist early on and telling the story in a more cohesive way.

The characters in the book felt unrelatable to me, and even though I have a father of two the emotional slam that this book tries to throw on you that you are supposed to be able to relate to as a parent just doesn't have the punch that I think was intended.

The initial plot of the book was interesting, and I found myself sucked into the story and wanting to learn more about this world. But the world building felt very limited and not explored in this first book in a way that continued to keep me interested. It had a wandering post-apocalyptic feel that I can understand appeals to some, just didn't hit right for me.

While this is an extremely unpopular opinion, I need to move on to something else that captivates me more thoroughly.
Profile Image for Lucy Dacus.
96 reviews28.2k followers
September 25, 2021
AAAHHH it's so good! If you think you don't like sci fi, read this. Nothing else like it.
Profile Image for Nataliya.
784 reviews12.5k followers
February 20, 2022
“For all those who have to fight for the respect that everyone else is given without question.”

There is always that desire to split the world into “us” and “them” and then, of course, firmly establish yourself on the “right” side, the side of “us” which is good by default. And then the next logical step is the elevation of “us” by degrading, dehumanizing “them” — all the way to denying them the right to humanity. You are not people, you are tools, objects, weapons — and weapons need to be controlled, tools need to be used, and nobody feels bad about this. This is how the world works, doesn’t it? But do it smartly, keep the “tools” and the “weapons” just enough under control to make them a part of this system, just enough to keep them grinding but not quite breaking. Yet.
But the world is not permanent, and millenia of wrongs do not make a right simply by the sheer force of habit. The earth moves slowly. After all, the continental drift is imperceptible, yet the built-up pressure sometimes may just lead to the devastating shattering. And in that shattering, in the end of the world, who can tell the right from wrong? And does it even matter?
“Let’s start with the end of the world, why don’t we? Get it over with and move on to more interesting things.”

This book is nearly perfect. It’s slow and deliberate and beautiful — and so very angry. But not the kind of easy, screaming, cathartic rage but rather that slow bubbling anger built from grief that builds up and builds until you know the pressure won’t be sustained for much longer. Until you know something will break. The world, the peace, the hearts.

That narrative voice Jemisin chose is perfect. Several voices, actually, that blend together seamlessly. It’s probably the best use of second-person narration - someone, omnipresent, telling this story about, or perhaps to someone else, to a chillingly haunting and wistful (but never maudlin or sentimental) effect, interspersed with more “typical” third-person limited worldview. And the narration never pulls the punches. It mixes cruel and playful in perfect quantity, showing us the author who is very confident in her craft - and for a good reason.
“There passes a time of happiness in your life, which I will not describe to you. It is unimportant. Perhaps you think it wrong that I dwell so much on the horrors, the pain, but pain is what shapes us, after all. We are creatures born of heat and pressure and grinding, ceaseless movement. To be still is to be… not alive.

But what is important is that you know it was not all terrible. There was peace in long stretches, between each crisis. A chance to cool and solidify before the grind resumed.”

Set on a world where “Stillness” is a wishful name for the continent ravaged by uncontrolled seismic activity, where usual seasons are punctuated by the fifth - the season of destruction - The Fifth Season shows us the society divided between humans and Orogenes - those who have the ability to affect the seismic events and therefore are feared and subjugated (there are those who can control orogenes) and considered inhuman - good, weapons, things really. And over millenia, this was how the world worked. Except for it *didn’t* — not for those dehumanized.
“We aren't human.”
“Yes. We. Are.” His voice turns fierce. "I don't give a shit what the something-somethingth council of big important farts decreed, or how the geomests classify things, or any of that. That we're not human is just the lie they tell themselves so they don't have to feel bad about how they treat us.”

Three storylines of three women - little Damaya shaped into a future government-controlled orogene, young Syenite who is eager to prove herself on her first assignment and learns how the world actually works, and Essun who has lost her child to murder by his own father and is no stranger to grief and loss. These storylines come together eventually, and what comes out of them is pain and grief and clean anger. Because happiness of some cannot be built on the pain of others. Eventually it will all come to an end. And sometimes the end can threaten to take the world with it, to hurt the world back.
“She will pay no attention to the world that is ending outside. The world has already ended within her, and neither ending is for the first time. She's old hat at this by now.”

Sometimes grief and anger can move mountains.
It shakes you up, this book.

5 stars. One of my absolute favorites.

“This is what you must remember: the ending of one story is just the beginning of another. This has happened before, after all. People die. Old orders pass. New societies are born. When we say “the world has ended,” it’s usually a lie, because the planet is just fine.
But this is the way the world ends.
This is the way the world ends.
This is the way the world ends.
For the last time.”

Also posted on my blog.
Profile Image for Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘.
851 reviews3,882 followers
February 15, 2021

4.5 stars. What you know for sure is that you're not a child. You don't want to know what would happen if you were (this world is nasty). But you walk. Restlessly, you walk. At this point you're not sure it means something. You go on, though, because you're intrigued. Orogene, guardian, pirate, commless, you're part of the humanity anyway (they don't think you are). You're no stranger to rules (death awaits if you are) yet life destroys them at times (this is the way the world ends, again). Sometimes you wish info-dumping existed (confusion is you) but not anymore (you just wait, it makes sense).

(Friends do not exist. The fulcrum is not a school. Grits are not children. Orogenes are not people. Weapons have no need of friends.)

They lied, didn't they? (of course they did) The rage (or is it revenge) threatens to close your throat at any moment but you are strong, so go on, go on, just a little longer.

"Perhaps you think it wrong that I dwell so much on the horrors, the pain, but pain is what shapes us, after all. We are creatures born of heat and pressure and grinding, ceaseless movement. To be still is to be... not alive."

You're not sure how it happened but you laugh. It's a strange thing, that laugh. It takes you by surprise (the tears are never far).

"But this is the way the world ends.
This is the way the world ends.
This is the way the world ends.
For the last time."

You understand, finally, and you're amazed (it hurts, though).

Edit 31/07/17 : The Fifth Season was even better the second time around, but I should have seen it coming : a story so intricate really screams reread me, reread me with pleading eyes. August 15th can't come soon enough.

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Profile Image for Chelsea (chelseadolling reads).
1,479 reviews19.5k followers
July 11, 2020
Even though I struggled with it at times (we all know fantasy is not my usual genre, lol), there is no question that this book is a masterpiece. Wow. Wow wow wow. I can't wait to read everything else Jemisin has ever written.
Profile Image for J.L.   Sutton.
666 reviews926 followers
May 12, 2022
“Let's start with the end of the world, why don't we? Get it over with and move on to more interesting things.”

They Are Living Their Own Myths: An Interview With N.K. Jemisin, Author Of The Fifth Season - Electric Literature
From its ominous opening, "This is the way the world ends. Again," N.K. Jemisin's The Fifth Season offers an original and amazingly immersive experience! Jemisin's world-building exists side by side with a world teetering on the brink of destruction. But this has happened before. Natural disasters such as earthquakes and volcanoes have wreaked havoc on the Stillness, the super continent and only land mass of this world. Previous generations/civilizations have been unable to avoid the destruction. The powers (magical abilities) of Orogenes are refined in specific schools and attuned to these natural disasters. They might not be able to prevent the world from ending. (Or maybe they can?) Still, in a society with radically different customs, beliefs and social structures, Jemisin's characters (specifically her strong heroines) stand out and make this a truly enjoyable read! But what's with the floating obelisks? I will definitely have to continue reading The Broken Earth Series.
Profile Image for Hamad.
1,048 reviews1,383 followers
January 30, 2020
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“Let’s start with the end of the world, why don’t we? Get it over with and move on to more interesting things.”

★ This is my first pick for my book club “The Book Clinic” and after finishing it, I am so glad that I did choose it. I think it is a book that can be enjoyed by YA and adult fantasy readers, which was the main reason that made me pick it up.

★ This is my first novel I read by the author, I read her short story Emergency Skin last year and it was good but this was much better. I heard a lot of good things about this series and I guess I know why now.

★ This is one of the books that needs patience and the more you give it, the more you will get back from it. I think it is not a light read and it needs a clear mind to enjoy it to the max. I confess that I had some things going on in my life and I was reading this as a distraction which may not have been wise on my part. The good thing is that I read it with members of my club who intensified an already awesome experience. They made me notice things that I initially missed and wow, some readers are very sharp!

“Who misses what they have never, ever even imagined?”

★ The writing is good, the prologue was very magical and I knew from the start that I was going in for something very unique and different! The rest of the book had a more simple writing -still very good- and there are a ton of quotes that are worth stopping at and just losing your mind into. The author decided to write 3 POVs with one of them written in 2nd person, a very bold choice and a gamble that worked at the end of the day. I and almost all others who read this for the club had the same problem, the book was confusing at first with much info dump and alternating POVs which is too much at first but then gradually gets better and better and better! I don’t believe that the 2nd POV added much to the story but I ended up enjoying it and many others agree. I don’t know if it was the character that made it engaging or the storyline but it is a POV that grows on readers with every page.

★ The characters were well written, whether they are primary characters or not. Almost every character has a role in the story and then everything makes sense at the end. The book was diverse AF and I felt that this diversity was natural and not forced to check boxes and sell copies. It was simply effortless and part of the author’s writing style! I asked my club who was your favorite POV and it was really hard to choose one. I think it is going to be a tough tie between the three! Essun’s POV -which is written as a 2nd person POV- was very good but needed time to get used to, the use of YOU and YOURS feels like shoving it up your throat as a reader and it can be annoying it first!

“think you hate me because… I’m someone you can hate. I’m here, I’m handy. But what you really hate is the world.”

★ The world-building may be the best thing about this book. There is too much at first but all answers are provided by the end (And new ones arise). There were 2 appendices at the end of the book that were really helpful, they help understand the terminology and seasons mentioned, I discovered them a bit late (around 30% of the story) but still found them useful specially the second one.

★ The plot is a deep one, because this deals with important topics and I have to agree with one reader who said that if you remove the fantasy elements, it is still an important story about privileges and racism and oppression of the weak! The plot twists were hard to expect for me. But did the euphoria the book gave me at the end raise my rating? Would I still give it the same rating if I did a re-read knowing all the secrets now and I think the answer is yes because this story is simply much more than a plot twist!

“This is what you must remember: the ending of one story is just the beginning of another.”

★ Summary: A great book with a tough and shaky start full of info and confusion but patience is what makes it so rewarding! The characters and world-buildings were superb, the writing style and plot-twists were good too. I do recommend it for fantasy lover looking for something different, I am surely planning to continue the series soon.

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Profile Image for Althea Ann.
2,233 reviews1,046 followers
March 17, 2016
OK, I'm going to have to shell out for my WorldCon membership just so I can nominate this book for a Hugo.

I recently noticed that Nora Jemisin's Goodreads profile lists her "influences" as Tanith Lee & Ursula K. Le Guin. I'm not sure if she put that in there or someone else did - but those just happen to be two of my most favorite authors; and yes, I can see the 'influence' on this book.

Previously, I've only read Jemisin's Hundred Thousand Kingdoms - her first book. It was good enough that I bought the sequels - but I haven't gotten around to reading them yet. 'The Fifth Season' really demonstrates that her writing has matured since then.

The premise itself involves a familiar fantasy scenario (although, technically, this is really "science-fantasy"): innate 'magical' abilities that are hated and feared by the local population; an institution devoted to collecting and training talented individuals. There's some Wisdom of the Ancients, some post-apocalypse, some questing, some Wizard Battles. This book will appeal to anyone who loves all of these things. However, the writing and the non-stop originality of the book lift it head-and-shoulders above many other iterations of these tropes.

There are three threads of the story. It's nearly immediately clear that they do not all take place concurrently, but it's only gradually revealed how the events of each reflect upon and are related to the others. The unfolding of the tale is done masterfully.

In the first strand of this braid, Essun, a mature woman, is introduced by the side of her young son's corpse. It turns out that the boy was revealed to be an orogene. (orogeny [aw-roj-uh-nee, oh-roj-] 1. the process of mountain making or upheaval.) Geologic upheaval is what people born with this ability can do, using only their minds. Unfortunately, it can be a hard ability to control - those with the ability tend to use it unconsciously, whenever they feel threatened or angry. Even a minor offense or accident can end up causing massive death and destruction. So it's understandable that people with this ability are hated and feared. It's also obvious, from nearly page 1, that in a world that is as geologically unstable as this one is, one prone to periodic apocalyptic eruptions that cause years-long, civilization-destroying winters (the 'fifth seasons' of the title), that the orogenes could be the key to survival itself.
Essun knows that it was her husband, the boy's father, who killed him. She also knows that the boy's abilities came from her - she also is an orogene. Traumatized and furious, she sets off on a quest for revenge - and to also possibly find her surviving child.
But there is one other thing that Essun knows. A recent geologic upheaval was worse than any other in recorded history. It might not yet be clear to everyone, but this could very well be the true end of the world.

In the second strand of the braid, we meet the young girl Damaya. She also has just been revealed as an orogene, due to the results of a playground spat. While her family didn't kill her, they immediately repudiate and imprison her - and sell her to a Guardian, who plans to take her to what sounds a lot like a college for wizards, where orogenes will be trained to protect and serve, rather than to destroy.

In the third piece of the story, we meet the initiate Syenite, an orogene sworn to the service that we just saw Damaya entering. The obedience required of Syenite, and the responsibilities demanded from her, throw our perspective on the whole institution she serves into quite a different light.

And of course... this is just the beginning. There are also aliens! Pirates! Geode cities! Floating obelisks! More!

My one slight criticism of the book (and this is me as a non-parent) is there there is quite a lot of dead-child-as-motivation. I'm just generally not a fan of child-motivations in general. But this is done well enough for me to excuse it. The depictions of trauma are realistic and believable; the characters all really came to life for me.

There's also a definite sequel on the way... and all I can say is: I can't wait!

March 2016: as promised, nominated for Hugo.
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